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					                                                        REPORT TO CABINET
                                                        26 November 2002


TITLE OF REPORT: The Outdoor Trust

REPORT OF:          Brian Edwards, Group Director Learning and Culture


                               EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The purpose of this report is to update Cabinet of work that has been progressing
with regards to securing the continued provision of outdoor education
opportunities for Gateshead schools. In securing this continued provision, the
report also seeks Cabinet approval in principle to the lease of Dukeshouse Wood
Field Study Centre to the Outdoor Trust.


Policy Context

1.     This report supports the Council’s aims of helping people to learn and
       develop through their lives in raising levels of achievement

Consultation

2.     At its meeting of 26 March 2002, the Executive Committee considered a
       report which outlined a potential joint venture arrangement with South
       Tyneside and other neighbouring authorities in securing outdoor education
       opportunities for schools in the authorities involved. The report described
       the potential for investment into Thurston, a 36 place residential outdoor
       activity centre which is maintained by South Tyneside. The report also
       suggested the establishment of a trust which would take this venture
       forward.

3.     From that meeting, members accepted the principles of this approach and
       endorsed Gateshead’s continued involvement with South Tyneside and other
       neighbouring authorities in the attempt to secure the provision of outdoor
       education opportunities for its schools. Members also agreed that a
       maximum 10% of Gateshead’s New Opportunities Fund for PE and Sport
       allocation (amounting to £300,000 of capital investment) be identified as
       Gateshead’s contribution to this development.

4.     The work that has been progressed following this approval has engaged
       schools, officers and elected members from both Gateshead and South
       Tyneside.

Implications

5.     Focus is now being given to the investment of NOF monies into both
       Thurston and Dukeshouse Wood. For Gateshead this would see an
       investment of approximately £200,000 of its NOF allocation into Dukeshouse
       Wood. To maintain the partnership link in provision, the future intentions
       would be to lease both sites to an existing trust status organisation who
       would manage and operate both centres on an integrated basis.
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6.     The Outdoor Trust have confirmed their interest in operating and managing
       Dukeshouse Wood under a lease arrangement. This will be on the basis of a
       25 year term with effect from April 2003. In return for a peppercorn rent,
       the terms of the agreement will also include the following requirements:

        That the Trust maintain, repair and improve the site and its buildings in
         consultation with Gateshead Council.

        That the Trust seek to establish a Hardship Fund to allow those children
         from socially deprived backgrounds to continue to access the
         opportunities offered.

        That the trust look to offer preferential booking and subsidised/reduced
         rates to Gateshead schools.

        That nominated representatives from Gateshead Council be made
         members of the Board of Trustees or subsidiary body overseeing the
         operation of Dukeshouse Wood, depending on how the Outdoor Trust
         chooses to organise itself.

7.     Discussions with the Trust have also included the management of South
       Tyneside’s Thurston site which the Outdoor Trust are also willing to explore.
       In essence, the Trust would be the vehicle for future collaboration in the
       provision of outdoor education between the two Councils.

Recommendations

8.     It is recommended that the Cabinet:

       (i)     approve in principle the lease of Dukeshouse Wood to the Outdoor
               Trust on the terms described in paragraph 6 above.

       (ii)    endorse the investment of £200,000 of the Council’s NOF PE and
               Sport allocation into Dukeshouse Wood.

       For the following reasons:

       (i)     to secure the continued provision of outdoor education opportunities
               and experiences for Gateshead Schools




CONTACT:       Steve Leigh ext 2704                               PLAN REF: 782
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                                                                     APPENDIX 1

Background

1.     At its meeting of 26 March 2002, the Executive Committee considered a
       report which outlined a potential joint venture arrangement with South
       Tyneside and other neighbouring authorities in securing outdoor education
       opportunities for schools in the authorities involved. The report described the
       potential for investment into Thurston, a 36 place residential outdoor activity
       centre which is maintained by South Tyneside. The report also suggested the
       establishment of a trust which would take this venture forward.

2.     From this meeting, members accepted the principles of this approach and
       endorsed Gateshead’s continued involvement with South Tyneside and other
       neighbouring authorities in the attempt to secure the provision of outdoor
       education opportunities for its schools. Members also agreed that a maximum
       10% of Gateshead’s New Opportunities Fund for PE and Sport allocation
       (amounting to £300,000 of capital investment) be identified as Gateshead’s
       contribution to this development.

3.     Before embarking on the establishment of a Trust Status organisation for the
       provision and management of any future outdoor education, it was felt
       important to complete a business case for the provision. The following
       exercises have therefore been the focus of work over the last few months:

        Inter-authority working and NOF funding investment
        Establishing the level of school demand for the provision
        The development of Thurston Outdoor Activity Centre

4.     In evaluating the conclusions of this work, whilst Gateshead and South
       Tyneside are keen to pursue a partnership arrangement to the provision of
       outdoor education, it is evident that the pooled NOF monies available will not
       be enough to develop the Thurston site into a 60 place residence, with all the
       required facilities to support its satisfactory operation.

5.     Further discussions have considered the possibility of a scaled down
       development which would realise all the modern facilities and improvements
       identified, but to maintain Thurston as a 36 place residence. However, this
       would reduce accessibility to both Gateshead and South Tyneside schools.
       There are also indications that NOF would not be supportive of a joint venture
       arrangement which does not increase the level of provision.


Partnership for the Future

6.     Focus is now being given to the investment of NOF monies into both Thurston
       and Dukeshouse Wood. For Gateshead this would see an investment of
       approximately £200,000 of its NOF allocation into Dukeshouse Wood. To
       maintain the partnership link in provision, the future intentions would be to
       lease both sites to an existing trust status organisation who would manage
       and operate both centres on an integrated basis. Each Authority would be
       represented on the Board of Trustees with nominated representatives. In
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       essence, the Trust would be the vehicle for future collaboration in the
       provision of outdoor education between the two Councils.

7.     A recent approach has been made to the Council by the Outdoor Trust who
       have expressed an interest in leasing Dukeshouse Wood for the purpose of
       operating outdoor adventure activity which would be offered to schools. The
       Outdoor Trust is an organisation which has been in existence for a number of
       years and currently maintains outdoor adventure activity in North
       Northumberland, Scotland and the Lake District.

8.     Early discussions have covered many aspects of the Outdoor Trust
       involvement which include leasing Dukeshouse Wood from the Council and
       managing the centre under the arrangements of the Trust and Council
       representation on the Board of Trustees. Discussions have also included the
       management of South Tyneside’s Thurston site which the Outdoor Trust are
       also willing to explore. As an example of timescales, a leased option approach
       with the Outdoor Trust could see an operation up and running by the end of
       the Spring Term 2003.


Lease Agreement with the Outdoor Trust

9.     More detailed discussions are now taking place with the Outdoor Trust and
       proposals for the investment of NOF monies into Dukeshouse Wood are
       being drafted. The Outdoor Trust have confirmed their interest in operating
       and managing Dukeshouse Wood under a lease arrangement. This will be on
       the basis of a 25 year term with effect from April 2003. In return for a
       peppercorn rent, the terms of the agreement will also include the following
       requirements:

        That the Trust maintain, repair and improve the site and its buildings in
         consultation with Gateshead Council.

        That the Trust seek to establish a Hardship Fund to allow those children
         from socially deprived backgrounds to continue to access the opportunities
         offered.

        That preferential booking and subsidised/reduced rates be offered to
         Gateshead schools.

        That nominated representatives from Gateshead Council be made
         members of the Board of Trustees or subsidiary body overseeing the
         operation of Dukeshouse Wood, depending on how the Outdoor Trust
         chooses to organise itself.

10.    Discussions with the Trust have also included the management of South
       Tyneside’s Thurston site which the Outdoor Trust are also willing to explore.
       In essence, the Trust would be the vehicle for future collaboration in the
       provision of outdoor education between the two Councils.

Alternative Options

11.    All the options that have been considered in the development of these
       arrangements have been considered previously.

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Implications of Recommended Option

1.     Equal Opportunities Implications - Nil

2.     Crime and Disorder Implications - Nil

3.     Environmental Implications - Nil

4.     Human Rights Implications – Nil

5.     Ward Implications - Nil



Background Information

Report to Executive Committee - March 2002




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